Friday, 18 March 2011

How to Intercrop Jatropha Bio Fuel Feedstock with Food Crops

Intercropping, or polyculture, is an agricultural method of farming whereby two or more crops are grown together. They can be mixed in a field with no delimited rows or each crop given its own rows among the others. Intercropping seeks to create symbiotic relationships whilst decreasing competition for resources.

Jatropha Curcas is a good candidate for intercropping because it renitrogenises the soil in addition to being a perennial and hardy plant. The valuable, oil-producing seeds of Jatropha Curcas can be harvested and turned into Bio Fuels as well as fruits of companion plants which can give food security and sustainability to a plantation providing  both food and fuel security on marginal land in some of the poorest regions in the world such as Central Africa.

Coconut or Palm trees provide shade for the Jatropha in the same way as Jatropha provides shade for lettuce, this is a symbiotic relationship.

Jatropha Curcas can be intercropped with:
  • Coconut or Palm Trees
  • Watermelons
  • Tomato Plants
  • Peppers
  • Cucumber
  • Legumes
  • Basil
  • Chard
  • Lettuce
  • Spices
Plant Jatropha 5 feet apart in rows spaced 10 feet apart. If you cannot obtain juvenile trees, propagate seeds indoors after soaking in warm water for 8 hours.

During the summer tomatoes, peppers and watermelon can be planted in rows between the trees.

Plant tomatoes at least 2 feet away from the Jatropha and give a 3-foot radius to grow.

Plant watermelon four seeds at a time in small mounds directly in between Jatropha rows. Do not plant any other crops within 10 feet of the watermelon seed mounds.

Plants peppers at least 2 feet from Jatropha and give a 1.5-foot radius to grow.

When the Jatropha has reached full mature height, plant climbers at its base such as cucumbers and legumes. The climbers can be trained to grow up the plant with twine ties.

Shade-tolerant plants like basil, chard and lettuce can also be planted around the base of Jatropha, Plant in concentric circles. For Chard and Lettuce take advantage of the shade for end-of-season growing when the weather warms.

When Jatropha reaches its full height, continue to intercrop in rows between the trees. Simply transplant seedlings after pruning the Jatropha in February.

Monday, 14 March 2011

How to Refine Crude Jatropha Oil For Bio Diesel

Oil extracted from the seeds of the Jatropha plant is used as a green alternative to fossil fuel. Jatropha oil comes from seeds of the perennial Jatropha plant. According to the Turkish Agricultural Guide Organization, each seed is 40 percent oil and one square mile of Jatropha is capable of yielding 2000 barrels of biodiesel fuel.

The Jatropha Curacas plant is generally cultivated for the purpose of extracting crude Jatropha oil. (CJO) The seeds are the primary source from which the oil is extracted. Owing to the toxicity of Jatropha seeds they are not ingested by humans as they contain rycin.
The major goal of Jatropha cultivation, therefore, is performed for the sake of extracting Jatropha oil. The optimum oil content in Jatropha plants varies between species and genetic variants.  
gouttes de pluie sur jeune feuille de jatropha image by Unclesam from
It is often considered that a more effective extraction technique would yield greater quantities of oil. This is partly inaccurate, since an effective extraction method would only yield the optimum quantity and not more than that.

Climatic and soil conditions generally affect the yield of the oil as well. However, improper processing techniques such as prolonged exposure of the harvested seeds to direct sunlight can impair the oil yield considerably.

The maximum oil content that has been reported in Jatropha seeds has been close to 47%. However, the accepted average is 40%, and the fraction that can be extracted is taken to be around 91%. 

Refining Crude Jatropha oil uses Potasium Hydroxide as a catalyst to break the oil's triglyceride chain and reduce its viscosity for use in automotive engines.

Potassium Hydroxide breaks the triglyceride chain by removing the binding glycerin molecule. This process is called Trans-Ester-Fication. The remaining Jatropha oil molecules can then be burnt by automotive diesel engines as biodiesel or further refined to make Bio Synthetic Parafinic Kerosine (Bio SPK)

Potassium Hydroxide is a preferable catalyist to Sodium Hydroxide in the refining of Crude Jatropha Oil. (CJO)

  • 1.lite Crude Jatropha Oil (Crush 3kg of Seed)
  • 200ml methanol, 99+% pure
  • 7.5 grams Potassium Hydroxide
  • Blender with glass container
  • Scales
  • 2 glass beakers
  • 2  litre Coke Type Bottles
  • Plastic funnels
  • 3 bottles, 2.5-quart or larger
  • Thermometer
  • Respirator
  • Protective gloves
  • Goggles
Pour the methanol into the plastic container and add the 7.5 grams of Potassium Hydroxide screw the cap on tightly. Swirl and shake the container to dissolve the Potassium Hydroxide. Wait until the particles have dissolved to continue. This is your methoxide catalyst.

Heat the Jatropha oil to 130 degrees Fahrenheit and pour it into the blender. Add the methoxide from the plastic container. Cap the blender tightly and mix on low for at least 30 minutes.

Pour the mixture from the blender into one of the glass bottles. Screw the lid on tightly and let the mixture settle for at least 72 hours to get the best possible most complete reaction.

Uncap the bottle and remove the layer of biodiesel and transfer it to a bottle to wash it in, two litre coke bottles are ideal for a small scale wash.

Leave the darker layer of glycerin that's settled at the bottom of the first bottle in the open air for three weeks for any excess methanol to evaporate and the glycerin can be used to make natural soap.

Wash the biodiesel by pouring it into one of the plastic bottles and adding half a litre of distilled (boiled tap) water and agitating the mixture until the oil and water appear thoroughly combined.

Let the bottle sit for at least three hours, drain the water from the bottom of the bottle, remember to wear gloves as this is "caustic water" which can be used as drain cleaner or for making soap.

Keep washing the biodiesel until the water is clear, your biofuel should then be left to stand for 24 hours in a dry place so that any excess water can evaporate. Your Jatropha Oil has now been refined and is ready to use in any diesel engine!

To make batches bigger than 1 litre at a time you will need a Biodiesel Processor the cheapest way is to build your own this is a good rescource that you can use to start building your own bio diesel processor at home.

How to Plant Jatropha Curcas for Sustainable Bio Fuels

How To Plant Jatropha Curcas For Sustainable Bio Aviation Fuel

Jatropha Curcas, also known as Barbados nut or purging nut, is a semi-evergreen flowering shrub that is found in many continents Africa, India to Mexico where a non toxic genus grows and Central America.


Jatropha Caracas may have become known as the Barbados nut as the Portuguese brought the Jatropha from the Caribbean to Africa. Jatropha (Jatropha curcas) is a warm-climate bush that produces a black oilseed about the size of a large bean.

Although both plant and the oil from its seed are inedible and poisonous, Jatropha has gained fame as a potential source of biofuel. To grow it on a large scale, you need land in a tropical region. Jatropha also grows as a hedge and it prefers dry conditions, doing well in sandy soil, which doesn't hold onto moisture.

Jatropha Curcas prefers to grow in a tropical and subtropical climate. Jatropha grows best in areas where the average temperature is between 68 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Jatropha is currently being grown in Africa, India, Philippines and United States as a potential source of bio fuel.

Successful cultivation of Jatropha Curcas for Bio Diesel or Bio Aviation Fuel (Bio SPK) depends largely on proper site selection, preparation and planting practices. My aim is ultimately to use hydroponic methods to grow Jatropha in optimum conditions to produce the UK’s first fully sustainable Bio Aviation Fuel.

Wherever in the world you are thinking of growing Jatropha you first need to choose a planting location that meets the cultivation requirements of your Jatropha curcas plant. Look for a location that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight each day and has well-draining soil.

Prepare the location carefully before planting the Jatropha curcas, a plot that provides fast drainage and air circulation underground is ideal; incorporate a 2- to 3-inch layer of manure into the soil. Jatropha also thrives in low-nutrient ground, but its fruit yield isn't as abundant.

Remove any rocks, sticks or other debris and dig up the roots of perennial weed plants that would compete for water with your Jatropha.

Then you can dig a planting hole for your Jatropha curcas that is just slightly wider than its root system which is about 2.5 square meters per plant. The taproot can reach depths of 7 meters in terms of a plantation 2500 plants per Hectare can be planted with the right conditions.

There are lots of theories as to the correct number of plants per hectare, which I welcome this is my best representation of an ideal plantation with the knowledge available to me.

Jatropha can be intercropped with palm trees, watermelons, spices as well as maize and other food crops which should be taken into consideration when planning the planting out of your Jatropha.

If you are planting from seed you first need to soak the seeds in water for eight hours before planting them. If they're still in hulls, crack them and remove the seeds before placing them in water.

Plan to sow your Jatropha seeds at the beginning of the rainy season

If you have germinated your seeds and have your Jatropha growing in containers make the hole no deeper than the height of the Jatropha nursery container.  Work 2 cups equal parts peat moss and coarse builder's sand into the soil that was displaced by digging the planting hole. A few rocks and some bone meal will aid aeration, drainage and provide nutrients.

You can also use composted glycerine by product from producing bio diesel from crude Jatropha oil and use this as a fertiliser as well as the seed husks if you are planting out seedlings from an existing plantation.
Remove the Jatropha curcas plant from its nursery container and use your fingers to gently untangle the plant's roots. Lower the plant into the prepared hole and fill in the space around the plant with the soil mix. Pack down the surface of the soil around your plant.

Water the Jatropha curcas after planting to moisten the soil and eliminate air pockets trapped around the plant's roots. Slow-water with a drip, soaker or bubble hose to moisten the soil to a depth of at least 6 to 8 inches; irrigate your seeds twice a day. From the eighth day on, reduce the watering to once daily.

Jatropha seeds can be harvested one year later, after the fruit becomes yellow to brown. Store or replant them. Use seeds that have dried and turned black for biofuel production. 3kg of Jatropha seed will produce 1 litre of Crude Jatropha Oil (CJO) which can be used to make bio diesel.